Popular culture is such a large part of todays society, with geek culture flooding the mainstream media in the rise of video games and comic book movies. The sad reality is that even with this large appeal society still is rampant with sexism and misrepresentation. Even so, Phoebe Shields still finds a lot of hope and excitement in this arena, with anime and video games being quite a prominent interest of hers.
Pop culture is as much about escape as it is reflecting real life to Phoebe, who finds that what draws her most to video games and anime is when they manage to “reflect life and make interesting statements about humanity”. Serious reasons aside, she also admits she enjoys them because “they’re just damn funny”. This is what these entertainment mediums are all about, immersing their audiences in new worlds that are all at once amusing, thought-provoking and emotional.
Despite the target audience gender skew, Phoebe feels that women and people as a whole are starting to receive better representation in these mediums as “producers are beginning to understand that yes, females do indeed play games, and yes, we want to be able to play a female”.
During her participation in video games, “on more than one occasion” she has received comments suggesting she was “either not particularly intelligent or extremely lacking in common sense” based off the fact that she is female. From her time with games Phoebe noted that while still receiving sexist or inappropriate remarks from the younger generations it was more something coming from older males, suggesting the whole situation is “a subtle, constant thing”. She sees this problem as one more with society than just something localised to the game production industry, finding that “it gets to the point where you have a brief flash of annoyance and then just forget about it because it happens so often”.
There is hope for us yet, believes Phoebe, with many positive role models existing within these movies and games. “Tomb Raider, Walking Dead, and hell even Maleficent are about overcoming the worst parts of human nature”, passionately highlighting the potential for humans to retain their morality while overcoming these challenges.
People question why the large amount of violence and grim depictions of the world exist though out popular culture, but these are more and more becoming tools through which these problems can be explored and used in a meaningful way, “with so much violence and hate in the world these days, more than anything I love pop culture that tells a story about overcoming those things” notes Phoebe.
Even with the negatives, Phoebe has had some very positive experiences writing about and interacting with the audience of some of her favourite games. In this scenario she felt the best part was “the community mostly, and the shared joy in a game we all wanted to play”.
While she doesn’t intend on pursuing a career focussed on pop culture and games, they’ll always be something Phoebe enjoys. One day she hopes to see a continued change in society for the better, posing one resonating question for the development of popular culture materials; “while many gamers, men included, are disgusted by the blatant misogyny in them, why do they still make sales?”